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And better far is it, as it appears to us, that the end to which any way leads should be known, than that the simple and the unwary, deceived by false pretences, should be entangled in the maze of error and destruction,—whilst they,— fondly relying on their pastors, think themselves in the way of truth-the path of holiness and heaven!
In an age when political and religious apostasy cease to astonish, because of their very frequency,-may grace be given to our readers and fellow-Protestants, to discover and hold fast the faith,—may they be zealous in contending for it, resolute in maintaining it, active in spreading it, and conveying to others the same glad and glorious truth,-which forms their own consolations for time-their hopes for eternity.
We have to thank our literary contributors for the kind aid which they have afforded us, and to assure them that, if permitted to resume our labours with the ensuing year, we shall feel highly gratified in receiving further communications.
THE PRESENT ASPECT OF POPERY, AND THE DUTIES OF PROTESTANTS.
THE new year opens upon us with increased duties to perform, and augmented difficulties to be opposed. The tide of innovation rolls on; Romanists demand fresh concessions, and Protestants seem to vie with one another in making them, anxious above all things to conciliate Roman Catholics, and even inclined to anticipate their demands and wishes.
Glad indeed should we be if peace might spread her halcyon wings over the troubled waters of worldly politics. Glad should we be to find that there were no need of a sentinel to keep watch, because there were no foes against whom it were needful to keep watch. But whilst we remember that the foe still exists-whilst we see that foe, exerting every influence to accomplish its own advancement, and our subjugation, if not destruction, we should be guilty, both in the sight of God and of man, were we to cease to be upon our guard; we should deem ourselves traitors to the cause of true religion, the cause of our country, the cause of the Bible, in preferring a hollow and a heartless peace, proposed only that greater advantages might thereby be gained over us.
Divisions, alas! prevail on every side, and seem, for a while, destined to extend and prevail yet more and more. Parties, divided amongst themselves, seek alliance in the arms of their opponents; and thus, whether in political or theological matters, do we behold a state of things growing up, unknown in this our country since the unhappy and disastrous events which disgraced it in the seventeenth century. Divisions, we have said, prevail, and that, too, no less in theclogical than in political matters. We have only need, in confirmation of this assertion, to refer to events recently passed, and even now passing, in England, Ireland, and Scotland. Nor are these divisions confined to the Protestant communions alone. The Church of Rome shares them; and there are to be found, amongst both lay and clerical, titled and untitled, of the Romish Church, some VOL. VII.-January, 1845. B
co-operating with the designs of Government in regard to the Charitable Bequests Act, and some opposing them. In Ireland, too, O'Connell is endeavouring to coax and wheedle over the Protestants to join him in his treasonable designs against England; whilst here we have a Protestant Administration seeking now to intimidate and coerce the Roman Catholics into obedience, and now to win them over by concessions; a Government styled Conservative, yet conceding points which ought to be maintained; Protestant, yet supporting Popery; professing Christianity, yet countenancing idolatry; a Government strong, yet mistrusting itself; powerful, yet mistaking the real elements of its strength; fearful of itself and its supporters; sacrificing friends to conciliate foes; and entering, or seeming to enter, upon an alliance with Popery and others, their inveterate opponents, for the purpose of enjoying a momentary independence of their friends who wafted them into power and office.
Indeed, there are some of every party who seem to apprehend that the Roman Catholics have more power than they really possess, and thence infer the necessity of gaining over the votes and interest of the Roman Catholics as make-weights, that by having their influence cast into the scale they may acquire for themselves and the party to which they belong-or which they think belongs to them-a preponderating power and influence.
At the present time there appear to be two chief political parties struggling for pre-eminence. The Conservatives, anxious to retain office; and the Whigs, anxious to regain it. Each of these parties is now paying court to the Roman Catholics, who appear willing enough to serve either, or both by turns, as may best advance the Romish religion and Romish power-despising both, yet making use of both; serving and dictating at the same time, and requiring, as the price of their service, the betrayal of the Protestant interest of Great Britain, aye, and of the world.
There are also two other parties, important certainly, viz., the Romanist party, some of whom are intermingled probably with the other three; and the Radical party. It is in the power of the two former, and, perhaps, of the first alone, rightly steering its course, by sound true principle, to defeat the rest. But if dissentient amongst themselves, or quarrelling with one another, that party calls in extrinsic, uncongenial, and foreign aid to support them in the struggle, what other fate and result can reasonably be expected than that which befel the ancient inhabitants of this land, who having called in the Saxon to repel the Picts, soon found that their allies were their masters, that those whose aid they had invoked against foreigners, and invited to tread common ground with them, could not only
repel the invader, but dispossess the native, and triumphing both over the enemy and the ally, claim the country and its government as their own.
Yet, at the present time, there seems a desire at almost any rate to secure the Romish party as allies. One party supposing such alliances are essential to the retention, and the latter, to the resumption of office.
Meanwhile the politicians of the Vatican too often outwit the politicians of St. James', and the Protestants of this great empire, divided amongst themselves through the factiousness or desertion of principle, and vacillation of their leaders, appear to many, as already victimized at the shrine of Popery, party, and expediency.
It is time, therefore, that our Protestant fellow-countrymen rose to think, and to act for themselves. They and their posterity must be the sufferers for the evil brought about by their aid or connivance. And as the power, at least to a certain extent, of warding off future evils, rests with them, they ought to bestir themselves to a right discharge of that responsibility. It is time, that merging all minor differences, and overlooking things of a comparatively trifling importance, they gird up the loins of their mind, and bend all their power and influence to the defence of what they yet possess, and the recovery of what they may have already lost. All former bonds of union rudely rent asunder, and the wild elements of discord let loose, where shall we now turn ourselves? We ask the question as Protestants. Can we rely upon that party which has professedly dealt out such heavy blows, and serious discouragements to our Protestant Church? Certainly not.
Can we rely implicitly upon those who, having made a grievous havoc of our Protestant Constitution in 1829, have since their resumption of office, instead of seeking to repair the breaches made upon our citadel, actually widened themhave held out almost the language of menace to our friends should they dare to attempt to stop the gap? Alas! the confidence of those who placed their trust in man must have been sorely, but we would hope salutarily, shaken by the events of the last ten or fifteen years.
Yet without any other party who will more fully carry out the principles and practice of our Protestant Constitution in its better days, we feel it our duty, in common with other Protestants, to support the present Administration, as an Administration, but opposing, to the utmost of our power, every measure which seems fraught with danger, threatening the subversion and ruin of our Protestant Institutions. Still we must not rest there. No! we must turn aside from party, to principle, and live in the hope of seeing that Administration yet to be formed which shall have fixed and permanent prin
ciples as the basis of its proceedings; one which shall not, to prevent small evils, create greater, nor sacrifice the interest of a whole country, to please the clamorous faction of a part; one which we repeat shall not sacrifice truth at the shrine of error, nor from a mistaken earthly expediency, seek to legislate in opposition to the expressed will of Him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, by whom alone kings reign and princes decree justice.
It has ever been our one great object, to revive, in some respects, that high tone of Protestant feeling which animated a great proportion of England's population when the nature of Popery was better known by Englishmen than now it is.
To the duty of petitioning, it is especially important that public attention be now directed. We know it is objected by some that petitioning does no good-that matters will take their course in the same way whether we petition or not-that neither Her Majesty's Ministers, nor the Houses of Parliament, moved by a few petitions, will alter the course upon which they had before resolved to enter.
This, however, we are unwilling to concede; and the objection is one which partially suggests an answer, and in that, its own refutation. For if the petitions are devoid of weight because they are few, that is no reason why they should be discontinued, but is rather an argument for increasing them. They who, steering by expediency, find it suit their purpose to concede to clamour what they deny to justice; who patronize Popery, not so much because they believe it right, as because they find that to conciliate, is the more agreeable policy-will, in proportion as these petitions increase in number, and in number of signatures, find it also expedient to concilitate Protestants, when Protestants, in principle and practice, as well as in name, assert their privileges, vindicate the honour handed down to them from their ancestors, and assert that Popery shall not be suffered, with their assent or connivance, to import its superstitions into our Reformed Religion-its tyranny into our free constitutionnor upon England's soil erect fresh trophies of honour to the Italian tyrant. We have not, however, forgotten whose language it was that conciliation of Popery had reached its limit, and feel called on more and more to petition, in order to show that the public at large entertain the same opinion.
But let it even be admitted that petitions have not the immediate effect they might be expected to have upon the Ministry and Legislature, yet their weight is not lost upon the country. The agitation of a righteous cause will lead to a spread of its principles, and, with the divine blessing, to the ultimate, if not speedy, triumph of its advocates.